40 Under 40

Good evening! What a terrific class we have this year! It is great to see tonight’s honorees, as well as past 40 Under 40 award recipients who helped select this class. This year’s record pool of more than 750 nominations reflects the prestige these awards carry, as well as the enthusiasm we have in our community. That is why Webster University is proud to sponsor these awards. As a global university that fosters young leaders and builds strong local connections in communities around the world, we are proud to work side by side with each of you and the young leaders to come.

Webster University is celebrating its centennial this year – 100 years – right here in St. Louis. What we know about Webster University’s history, is how important it is to nurture and encourage young leaders: When we do so, we help to create lifelong pillars of the community. Generations of leaders in this community are rooted in Webster’s founding and transformation in those 100 years.

Elizabeth Robb, who chaired our centennial committee, is one such example: She enrolled at Webster as a teenager in the 1960s, graduated with a degree in education, made a career turn to open her own very successful real estate business – and that business is still in the family today.

Another example is Jenifer Lewis, the star of film, TV and stage who got her start in Webster’s Conservatory in the 1970s. Her career since graduating in 1979 has spanned 35 years, 200 TV appearances, 60 films and four Broadway shows. Today you may know her from the current ABC show “Black-ish” or the recent “The Wedding Ringer” movie. But she is also known for her activism on the global and local levels, from AIDS research and human rights to the outreach in Ferguson. Born in the north St. Louis suburb of Kinloch, she continues to give back to her community today. I am proud to say she will be Webster’s centennial year commencement speaker this May, and she has created a scholarship with us to help provide students the same opportunity she had as a young woman.

Tonight’s awards celebrate this generation of extraordinary young leaders and engaged citizens who are making their mark in our region. Your talent and leadership is vital to keeping St. Louis vibrant and moving forward. The connections you build with one another and with your peers across the nation make St. Louis stronger. You have completed a very promising first stage of your careers, and are building the foundation for an even greater impact in the future -

As I look at the members of this year’s class, I see many faces and institutions that Webster University has worked with over the years in the name of making our region better.

Webster’s own commitment to our region has many expressions, from Webster Groves to Westport, Winghaven and Scott Air Force Base where we serve the western and eastern reaches of the metro area, and of course right here downtown, where our Gateway campus is responsible for restoring the Old Post Office and soon, the Arcade Building.

Those are physical locations, the places where our community comes together. But of course when we say “community,” we really mean “people.” The ideas, the partnerships and innovations that move our community forward are due to the courage and leadership of great people like those we celebrate here tonight.

So on behalf of this region, and on behalf of Webster University’s worldwide network of more than 172,000 alumni, I congratulate the 2015 40 Under 40 class. Your best is yet to come. But you have already made us even more proud to call St. Louis home.

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